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Go to the Coffee Cup for the charm, not for the food

Boulder City’s Coffee Cup Cafe has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” so which is it? Well, it doesn’t have a drive-in, so we can rule that out. That leaves diner or dive, and I’d place it somewhere in the middle.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Let’s start with the atmosphere, which may be the main reason to go to the Coffee Cup. It’s on the main drag in downtown Boulder City, which gives it a quaintness right from the start. The interior decoration adds to that; while it’s classic diner, with your basic ’50s-style chromed tables and chairs and a long, old-school-style counter, the place is packed with objects of whimsy, for kind of a divey feel. There are the requisite coffee cups, of course, and lots of old license plates, some pretty new, some old and rusty, some from Nevada and others from places much farther afield, like Australia.

And then there are the water-skiing artifacts, which provide local color, since Coffee Cup’s within shoutin’ distance of Lake Mead. (Although that doesn’t explain the surfboards; I’m pretty sure nobody’s surfing on the lake.)

The food fits the diner/dive theme, too, leaning heavily to the kinds of things that taste best when they’ve been cooked on a flat-top grill with years of seasoning, and that would include the chicken-fried steak and gravy with two eggs ($9). I always find the use of the very descriptive “chicken” in this dish instead of the weaselly “country” a key to authenticity, and that was the case here, the meat relatively thick but also relatively tender, enrobed in a light, slightly crunchy breading that didn’t get soggy from the gravy. On the side were crispy hash browns and toast, in our case a thick slice of sourdough. One flaw here: The oil in which the meat had been fried apparently was on the stale side, which gave it a slightly unpleasant off-flavor.

Better was the corned-beef hash, medium-cut, nicely seasoned and crisp at the edges, which we had as part of an Eggs Your Way combo ($8). We chose a half-order of French toast (50 cents) with this one, and it was one heck of a half-order, four generous pieces that were fluffy and eggy and sweet.

Coffee Cup’s menu isn’t devoid of updated, ethnic and healthful choices, and the Boardwalk Sandwich ($7), scrambled eggs and grilled tomato with Swiss cheese on grilled sourdough, was a nice change of pace.

And so was a cinnamon roll, a gargantuan thing that was quite the bargain besides being light and suitably cinnamony.

Coffee was exceptionally good — they use the local Colorado River Coffee Roasters’ brew — and since it was a holiday, we indulged in a bloody mary ($6), which also turned out to be exceptional, superspicy and with a thick slice of crisp bacon, an olive, lime wedge and celery stick.

Our server was very good, but the Coffee Cup hasn’t caught up to its own popularity in the wake of national TV exposure, and so most people who come in when the restaurant is full end up standing in the doorway, which causes both congestion and confusion.

But seeing the place may be the most important thing. We don’t think many people go to Coffee Cup just for the food, but it’s a charming reminder of a bygone era and a nice break in today.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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